The first building of Virginia Tech’s Global Business and Analytics Complex at Virginia Tech is coming to life.

Construction has begun at the corner of West Campus Drive and Perry Street for the Data and Decision Sciences Building, one of four that will comprise the complex that is frequently referred to as GBAC for short.

The approximately 115,000-gross-square-feet Data and Decision Sciences Building will house faculty and classes from multiple colleges, including the College of Engineering, the College of Science, and the Pamplin College of Business. Its function is to bring together under one roof computer science, engineering, and data-related disciplines to provide opportunities for students, faculty, alumni, and even industry leaders to work side-by-side to address some of the world’s significant data challenges.

On March 12, the university hosted a virtual groundbreaking ceremony for the new five-story Hokie stone-clad structure.

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The Data and Decision Sciences Building’s features will include a multilevel commons area, team rooms in which students across disciplines can work together, specialized labs, data visualization classrooms, and more.

In the future, the wider GBAC will include a second academic building to house the Pamplin College of Business and residential living learning communities. The living-learning communities will focus their themes on business, analytics, and international affairs.

The Data and Decision Sciences Building is expected to be complete by 2023 and will define the gateway to campus from the northwest side, said Liza Morris, assistant vice president for planning and university architect at Virginia Tech.

“It will be a significant change to campus,” she said. “We will start to architecturally define that corner. It will start to shape campus as you approach from that vantage point.”

Architect's rendition of a commons area within the Data and Decision Sciences Building.
Architect's rendition of a commons area within the Data and Decision Sciences Building.

GBAC is one of the top six fundraising priorities of Boundless Impact: The Campaign for Virginia Tech. Major fundraising is ongoing to help bring the full project to fruition.

Plans for GBAC also relate to major educational and workforce development priorities established for the commonwealth. Virginia’s package to attract Amazon’s second headquarters to Arlington, Virginia, included an assurance that the state’s universities would provide a pipeline of technology talent.

The state’s capital budget allocates $69 million toward construction of Data and Decision Sciences Building.

“This is an exciting and important milestone for Virginia Tech, and the commonwealth,” university President Tim Sands said during the virtual groundbreaking ceremony. “The Global Business and Analytics Complex exemplifies our Beyond Boundaries vision to prepare a new generation of leaders, professionals, and entrepreneurs. Integrating business disciplines with data and decision sciences will create the kind of learning environment our faculty and students need in the era of big data.”

Virginia Tech leaders at the groundbreaking for the Data and Decision Sciences buildings. From left, College of Science Interim Dean Ron Fricker, College of Engineering Dean Julia Ross, and Pamplin College of Business Dean Robert Sumichrast. Photo by Ryan Young for Virginia Tech.
Virginia Tech leaders at the groundbreaking for the Data and Decision Sciences buildings. From left, College of Science Interim Dean Ron Fricker, College of Engineering Dean Julia Ross, and Pamplin College of Business Dean Robert Sumichrast. Photo by Ryan Young for Virginia Tech.

The groundbreaking ceremony and a live question and answer session was hosted by Pamplin Dean Robert Sumichrast.

“No matter what precautions are necessary when it opens, this building will still be a hub for learning and discovery, not only for those of us who are based here in Blacksburg, but for our colleagues in Roanoke; in greater Washington, D.C.; and in Virginia Tech’s many other locations,” Sumichrast said during the online event.

Virginia Tech has committed to greatly expand its undergraduate programs in computer science, computer engineering, and related disciplines, College of Engineering Dean Julia Ross, said during the groundbreaking event.

The GBAC project will help by providing the space and resources needed for this expansion and for other programs that relate directly to data analytics and decision making.

“There is tremendous need, worldwide, for expertise in the rapidly developing fields that make up data analytics and decision sciences,” Ross said during the event. “We are happy to step forward in response. That expertise will be nurtured in the building we are launching today and the broader complex that will follow.”

Also highlighted in the virtual groundbreaking ceremony was the fact that the College of Science launched a new Academy of Data Science this past summer.

The academy is “a major development and a recognition that data science has become a field of its own — even as it is rapidly being integrated into so many other disciplines,” Ron Fricker, interim dean of the College of  Science, said during the virtual event. “This [new] building will help us realize those opportunities and make those discoveries at Virginia Tech by serving as a primary location to bring today’s experts together and educate tomorrow’s leaders to collaborate on new methodologies and applications.”

Written by Jenny Boone